Big, Beautiful Pictures Of 4 New Planets That Could Have Life On Them

Habitable planets[email protected] and NASA’s Goddard Space Flight CenterHabitable zone planets (from left to right) Kepler-69c, Kepler-62e and Kepler-62f are shown here to scale relative to Earth.

A total of 715 new planets were recently found in our region of the Milky Way, almost doubling the number of exoplanets we know of. NASA announced the find, made using the Kepler space telescope and a revolutionary new technique, on February 27.

From the launch of the Kepler telescope in 2009 to 2011, scientists detected 3,600 potential planets. They detected the planets by measuring slight dips in the brightness of nearby stars as the planets passed in front of them like below:

This was effective, but left the scientists with a new task — to confirm these are planets and not some other weird space event, they had to figure out how to distinguish the real planets from the fakes.

To do that, they used a new technique that they called “verification by multiplicity,” which relies on probability. Here’s how NASA explains it :

Kepler observes 150,000 stars, and has found a few thousand of those to have planet candidates. If the candidates were randomly distributed among Kepler’s stars, only a handful would have more than one planet candidate. However, Kepler observed hundreds of stars that have multiple planet candidates. Through a careful study of this sample, these 715 new planets were verified.

Basically, they looked for clusters of candidate planets and stars and then sifted more closely to identify authentic planets. It’s pretty brilliant.

Check out the change in the number of planet discoveries since they began using the new method:

In the course of their search, the team found four planets in what they call the “habitable zone” — the range of distance from a star where the surface temperature of a planet may be suitable for water. Scientists are now attempting to determine whether the planets are gaseous planets (like Saturn) or water worlds (like Earth).

Here’s what they think the planets look like, which were created based on the size of the planet and how far they think it is from its star:

Kepler-69c is 70% larger than Earth. It completes one orbit around its star every 242 days.

Kepler 69c

[email protected] and NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

Kepler 62e

Kepler-62e is 60% larger than Earth. It completes one orbit around its star every 122 days.

[email protected] and NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

Kepler 62f

Kepler-62f is 40 per cent larger than Earth. It orbits a star located 1,200 light-years from our planet.

[email protected] and NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

Kepler-296f orbits a star half the size and 5 per cent as bright as our sun. Kepler-296f is twice the size of Earth.

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